Liberal parties in pre-confederation Newfoundland

Liberal Parties In Pre-Confederation Newfoundland

Liberal parties in pre-confederation Newfoundland

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For the modern Liberal Party see Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador

Several earlier groupings functioned in the Dominion of Newfoundland under the name Liberal Party of Newfoundland from the granting of responsible government to the island in the 1850s until its suspension in 1934 when the Commission of Government was instituted. During that period, Newfoundland was an independent dominion within the British Empire, responsible for its own internal affairs.

The original Liberal Party was a coalition of Catholics and Methodists who opposed the Anglican-dominated political establishment. This party agitated for the granting of 'responsible government' to the island.

Shortly after responsible government was instituted in 1854, the Methodists left the party to join the Anglicans in the Conservative Party, leaving the Liberals as a (largely Irish) Catholic party. Political parties in the dominion were thus divided along sectarian lines for the next thirty years - a situation that resulted in periodic riots and other political violence. This division also reflected class differences: most Catholics were working class or farmers, and most members of the middle and business classes were Protestant.

In the 1880s, a denominational compromise was reached and political parties realigned with a new Liberal Party being formed by former Conservative Premier William Whiteway. Whiteway launched the new Liberal Party as a vehicle to promote the construction of a cross-island railway.

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